Eagle Ridge Farm

Continuing a sweet corn legacy can be a tad daunting.

When Original Lutz Farms Sweet Corn of Warren, Ohio, announced on Facebook that it was not growing or selling corn in 2021, the farm’s social media page was flooded with distraught customers near and far who had patronized the northeast Ohio business for many years.

Between 2021 and 2022, Harvey Lutz sold his sweet corn handling equipment to fellow farmers Nate and Kaylee Zimmet of Cortland. While the couple grew up in farming families, the Zimmets had been row crop farmers with limited direct-to-consumer retail marketing experience up to that point. They also both worked jobs off the farm and had three young boys.

Suddenly in 2022, their 20 acres of much anticipated kernels collided with high expectations from a loyal Lutz customer base. Half the corn was Lutz original yellow and the other half was a special “bicolor” blend.

Both were such a hit that on Eagle Ridge Farm opening day in 2022 the sweet corn was sold out in an hour and a half.

“We opened at 9 and everything was gone by 10:30,” Kaylee said. “We felt so bad.”

To make up for the disappointment, the Zimmets gave out buy-one-get-one wooden nickels and asked folks to come back. And they did, so much so that last year another five acres were planted. In 2024, they’ve planted five more to help supply the demand from folks who come from all over the region to buy their product from under a big white hoop between Mecca and Cortland on Route 46, running along the east side of Mosquito Creek Lake.

The Zimmets also sell bouquets of fresh cut flowers from the Joy Garden located right next to the sweet corn hoop. Patrons can also cut their own to take home. Produce from neighboring farms is also available to purchase.

Eagle Ridge’s Facebook page and targeted advertising have been the main drivers of getting the word out about their corn since 2022, and a somewhat unexpectedly well-placed billboard last year added to their exposure. One of their secret weapons is also their “corn dog” Maizey.

A carryover from the Lutz days is the in-season Sweet Corn Hotline, and it has been a critical tool to help keep customers up-to-the-minute informed about what is available.
While the Lutz’s had a sprawling network of answering machines set up to let customers know if corn was available on any given day, Kaylee uses a service that updates the corn hotline in real time whenever she leaves a message for customers, which is multiple times a day. She supervises the hoop market and works part time as a dental assistant.

Those who want to buy corn are strongly encouraged to call the hotline before making the trip to Cortland for their purchase.

“We have people that come every day,” Nate said. “We have repeat customers every day we’re open.”

Nate, a Marine Corps veteran, works full time at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station. During harvest season, he uses the vacation time he’s saved up all year so he can focus on bringing in sweet corn to sell at the market. He begins the sweet corn harvest in the early hours of the morning. He is in the sorting building by 4 a.m. at the latest, and friends, family and neighbors are there, too, at that early hour to help sort and grade the day’s offerings. The market opens to the public at 9 a.m. Corn that is more than two days from being picked in the field is “too old” in the Zimmets’ opinions. The fresher the better.

Eagle Ridge Farm Sweet Corn

Second only to the freshest corn, and not by much, is the customer service that is very key to bringing buyers back to the hoop throughout the five or so weeks of the season. The “corn crew” is made up of high school students, friends and family who work hard and have a service-centered attitude.

“We are really picky about who we hire,” Nate said. Kaylee agreed, adding that she sets the expectation that their crew treats each customer like they would their grandma.

“You only have one chance to make a good impression,” Kaylee said.

Nate’s Marine experience taught him to “go out of your way to help” and “above and beyond,” and they have expected that from their crew. They have delivered.

What is also important to the Zimmets is that at least one of them is at the market at all times.

“It’s important that they see her and I,” Nate said. “The image of the farm is ‘us’ and it’s important to us that the people are buying corn from the people who grow it, and that it was picked today.”

Donating locally what they don’t sell is important as well. Giving to organizations such as the Warren Family Mission is rewarding, and being a part of the community’s fabric is a blessing. Whether it’s sponsoring the local baseball team or having the girls high school softball team shucking corn for donations, supporting those who support them is vital.

“Farmers want to feed people,” Kaylee said. Seeing the direct impact – from joy to necessity – is almost indescribable,” Nate said. “It’s worked out really good.”

The sweet corn hotline will be activated when the season begins. For more information visit eagleridgefarmllc.com.

Photos by Bryan Rinnert

Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
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